211 help line proving an immediate success
In its first six weeks of operation, Nevada’s 211 help line phone number for people seeking social services logged upward of 6,000 calls.
Deputy Health and Human Services Director Mary Liveratti said the new help number seems especially popular with seniors.
The center was started with a $200,000 infusion of state money. Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, one of the authors of the legislation creating the number, said it was designed to take some of the non-emergency load off the state’s 911 emergency call line.
211 connects callers with one of the two centers where they will be referred to an organization, social services group, governmental agency or faith-based organization.
“We’ve had every kind of call you could imagine,” said Kathy Jacobs, of Reno’s Crisis Call Center. She said the list includes people looking for work, Medicaid and Medicare help, and child care, among others.
“One lady called the other night who had rodents in her home. She was 80 years old and didn’t know where to go for help because it was really difficult for her to get them out.”
She said another call was from someone who said a construction truck lost a box of nails and they were scattered all over the street. They notified the city which sent a cleanup crew to get rid of the danger.
“We’ve been able to help quite a few people,” Jacobs said.
Liveratti said the 211 system has been able to connect people with services they might never find for themselves.
“We have all these fragmented systems out there and it’s overwhelming sometimes for somebody if they’re facing a serious problem,” she said. “It’s nice to have somebody familiar with those systems helping you along.”
Jacobs said they started with a solid database provided by United Way of Northern Nevada but that numerous agencies have called to add themselves to the list.
That database is also linked to a similar one at the call center operated by Help of Nevada in Las Vegas so, for the first time, the state has a statewide list of different agencies.
The centers now field calls from 8 a.m. until midnight weekdays but don’t have the money to stay open 24 hours or on weekends, Liveratti said.
Most of the initial $200,000 in state money is gone. Since then, the state has added two grants to the program totaling $51,000 which she said will go primarily for staff. And Liveratti said United Way has been generous in trying to help financially, but they are looking for other groups, private donors, foundations and companies willing to help.
Liveratti said the goal is to provide the 211 service statewide, 24 hours, seven days a week, soon. They also want to add an Internet site.
The service started in the Reno-Carson and Las Vegas areas in mid-April but has already expanded with the help of small rural phone companies who absorbed costs of connecting their customers in their service areas.
In the meantime, she said the most critical need is for more staff to answer the phones.
“We’re looking everywhere for money,” she said.
One possible source, she said, is a federal Health Preparedness Grant, which would turn 211 into Nevada’s help line for people seeking services in the wake of a disaster.
Again, she said, that would relieve the pressure on overloaded 911 lines dealing with serious emergencies.
That application is now being considered by the federal government.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.
You can help
To register your group,
Ask for: Kathy Jacobs